Indigenous to North America, millions of bison once roamed the plains freely, providing a source of nutrition, clothing and shelter to Native American tribes. Heavy hunting in the late 1800s led to the near extinction of the breed, which is a sister to domestic cattle. Today, bison, also called American buffalo, provide a lean protein source that many choose for health reasons. You can purchase bison meat in grocery stores and from online retailers.
Calories and Protein
A burger could cost you fewer calories if you switched from ground beef to ground bison. A 3-ounce serving of ground bison contains about 150 calories and offers 22 grams of protein, while a similar portion of 80 percent lean ground beef weighs in 40 percent richer, at 216 calories. Although the beef burger carries more calories, it serves up only 15 g of protein -- just two-thirds as much protein as in bison.
Bison are leaner than cattle -- the 3-ounce bison burger contains 7 grams of fat compared to the traditional beef burger’s 17 grams -- and their fat is healthier for you, according to nutrition expert Loren Cordain, author of “The Paleo Diet.” Bison graze on grass and hay for the majority of their life, which creates body fat with a high level of omega-3 fatty acid. Beef cattle are raised on corn, which creates higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Consuming grass-fed meats can help you lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer by shifting your omega-3 to omega-6 ratios, Cordain explains.
The USDA reports that bison raised in the United States feed solely on grass and hay, and are not fed hormones or antibiotics. Comparatively, commercially raised beef cattle consume hormones and antibiotics to hasten their growth rate and fend off common feedlot illnesses, notes Cordain.
The American Heart Association recommends lean and extra-lean meat choices to reduce your risk of heart disease. Bison makes the AHA cut as an extra-lean meat choice due to its low cholesterol and low saturated fat content. Nutrition expert Mark Sisson, author of “Primal Nutrition,” recommends bison as well, calling grass-fed game meats a mainstay for the growing caveman diet population.
- National Bison Association: Data & Statistics
- NutritionalValue.org: Bison, Cooked, Grass-Fed, Ground
- “The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat”; Loren Cordain; 2010
- Journal of Animal Science: Fatty Acid Composition, Including Conjugated Linoleic Acid, of Intramuscular Fat From Steers Offered Grazed Grass, Grass Silage, or Concentrate-Based Diets.
- USDA; Focus on Bison; February 2003
- American Heart Association: Man Food
- NutritionalValue.org: Beef, Broiled, Cooked, Patty, 80% Lean Meat / 20% fat, Ground
- "The Primal Blueprint"; Mark Sisson; 2009
- bison image by Melissa Schalke from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.